The positivity of the otherness is quite often a forgotten fact, rather a rejected phenomenon. It has created a space for diatribe, which swings to the other end of the pendulum. Instead of celebrating the otherness of the other, it has been converted into a weapon of polarization and division, sowing discord, dissension and suspicion, between persons, communities and even nations. It has, in turn, reaped violence and pain in communities, across the world. The other has been presented as a threat, a disaster, a malaise, something not to be put up with, but to be crushed with all of one’s might, or the might of the institution.
A passing glance at various events happening in the different parts of the world, reflect the ‘other’ as someone unwanted, an intruder who is a problem and therefore to be rejected. Political discourse thrives on this type of polarization and reaps political advantage resorting to it. It can often blind us from looking at the ‘other’ respectfully. The other then becomes unwanted, un-welcome, a disturbing factor, someone to be frightened of, someone to be ignored, rejected and despised.
The season of advent, preparing us for the birth of our saviour calls us to reflect on the ‘otherness’ of the ‘other.’ The ‘Other,’ one totally different from us was born of the flesh. The ‘Other’ became one like us, as the Scriptures say, “in all things but sin.” In Jesus, God embraced our ‘otherness’ without any fear or intimidation. It was only through the divine-human partnership that the doors of salvation could be unlocked for humanity. The otherness that Jesus embraced was fraught with risks, with rejection, with no rewards, except for the reward of scourges and the cross. Jesus was indeed the ‘other’ who faced rejection and humiliation. Because he was the ‘other’ he found no place in the inn. He further reminds us of his otherness in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”
As we prepare for Christmas, we are preparing to receive Jesus as the ‘other,’ we are preparing to celebrate Jesus taking on our ‘otherness.’ It is simultaneously a reminder that we are called to embrace the ‘other/s’ with love and form a community. The resolution to the problems of the society/ies and the world today will not so much happen through undue nationalism, or through the focus on just the individual person. A more effective and long-lasting resolution could be achieved, not by ‘othering the other,’ but by embracing, respecting and assimilating the ‘other,’ mindful of the words of Jesus: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”